Sharon Bush philanthropy word cloud

My first job out of college as a young woman was teaching at an inner-city elementary school. At this school, I witnessed the indescribable treatment of some of the students at the school. I witnessed children being abused, mistreated, and not given enough to eat. These children, despite all their difficulties at home, came to school wanting to learn and participate to the best of their ability. They faced numerous obstacles but were determined to learn and be present in the classroom. This experience taught me that there are very vulnerable members of our society that need to be protected and soon I would be compelled to help other children and their families. From there, I created a nonprofit named the Karitas Foundation. The Karitas Foundation focused on increasing funding for homeless and abused children. This was the start of my mission in life.

At the time, I was so focused on creating the foundation that I did not properly reflect on the long-term, positive impact that philanthropy would have on my children, my community, and myself. Now looking back on my years of volunteering and serving others, I have found that the benefits of getting involved and giving back are far greater than I originally anticipated. I now see the far-reaching impact that philanthropy can have on an individual and on a wide variety of others. I originally started to get involved with my community because I had this overwhelming desire to help others, especially children and women but now I can see that philanthropy accomplishes more than just the obvious. It provides more functions in society than just helping a specific group of people. Here are the five different ways that philanthropy can help build a better sense of self, family and community.

Philanthropy can help teach your children valuable life skills:

When working for a nonprofit, money can be tight. Allocating money to the appropriate resources in order to accomplish a goal can teach an individual a lot about money management. Also, when looking to donate, people must allocate their own money appropriately so they can help give back to a cause. Whether you run a nonprofit or are looking to donate one, bring your children in on the decision making process. It will teach them to allocate money appropriately and to resources that matter.

Philanthropy also teaches children empathy. It shows them that there are other people out there in the world that are facing a variety of challenges and that it is important to help those that are less fortunate. Empathy is a powerful tool that helps children to connect with others and to cultivate an emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is key in helping children recognize their own emotions and the emotions of others. Empathy is directly related to emotional intelligence because it helps people to connect their own personal experiences with the experiences of others.

Philanthropy can unify a family:

Bringing the family together to give back to the community can create a very strong bond amongst the family members. Bring the family together to research a cause or a nonprofit that is important to their community. When a cause has been decided on, discuss with your children how participating and donating can be very impactful on both other people and the community. For example, discussing homelessness and how one can help will highlight the issue in the community and what one can do to help. You can take your children to serve food at a soup kitchen or take them to buy toiletry items to donate to the local YWCA. These kinds of activities will help a family grow closer and will create a bond that is genuine. Anytime a family participates in an activity together it will create a strong family bond.

Giving back and volunteering can benefit one’s health

There is a personal benefit to giving back and it is that it positively impacts your health. Volunteering to clean up your community by picking up trash gets you out and walking. Being active helps to reduce stress and there is a double bonus when you are getting out volunteering because it helps others. Volunteering to help those in need also can help those who suffer from depression. Studies have shown that volunteering helps facilitate a social connection, which helps alleviate feelings of loneliness. It also has been linked to a raise in self-esteem, which helps elevate the way you feel about yourself and gives you a new purpose. Volunteering provides a variety of health benefits in addition to helping a community.

Volunteering creates a domino effect of giving

Philanthropy is contagious and inspirational. When people see others pitching in and helping their community it inspires them to do the same. Children learn to give back by watching their parents donate their time and money to a cause. My children grew up watching me create and run a nonprofit that helped women and children. As adults each one of them has spent time donating, volunteering and helping a variety of causes and nonprofits. It has been such a joy to watch my children contribute in many ways to help individuals both in the United States and in other countries. Watching others volunteering or donating is very inspiring and emboldens others to also participate in giving back.

Provides a community with a better future

Children are our future. Some children are not given the same opportunities as others. From my experience teaching at an inner city school, I saw children who did not get enough food or enough sleep and how it would negatively impact their day at school. These children, despite struggles at home, wanted to learn and succeed more than anything. If the children in the community are suffering, then the community will suffer. Volunteering to help these children gives them the building blocks for a better future. It helps them to live up to their fullest potential. Helping children who come from limited means enables them to grow into strong, community-oriented leaders.


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